The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

astonishing A beautiful exploration of mental illness, family, and culture. The Astonishing Color of After takes place immediately after Leigh’s mother has committed suicide. Leigh, who is already a teenager discovering her place in the world, struggles to come to terms with what happened – and how her mother’s depression has affected both Leigh and her father. Believing that her mother’s spirit is still present, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her estranged maternal grandparents.

This is a beautiful, thoughtful look at mental illness and grief, as well as an exploration of Taiwanese culture (the author’s background as well.) It’s also a touching reflection on family. The chapters move back in forth in time – present day Taiwan, and in the past, with flashes of memory surrounding Leigh’s mother and parents.

The subject matter here could easily become either melodramatic or saccharine, but Emily X. R. Pan has managed to write an incredibly thoughtful and balanced book that explores heavy topics with grace and a deft hand. I loved the writing, and I loved spending time with Leigh in Taiwan as she rediscovers her mother’s roots. Quietly powerful and highly recommended. (Submitted by Veronica)

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Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan

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I can’t remember why I placed a hold on Tell Me More, but I’m happy that I did. On the dust jacket it cites the Huffington Post, who call her “the poet laureate of the ordinary.” This book evoked all sorts of responses from me; I laughed, I cried, I sent photos of passages to friends. It was the recounting of experiences in life that provide suggestions about how to handle heartbreaks and joys that a reader might encounter in their own life. I plan to re-visit it. (Submitted by J.Wilson)

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The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

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You think you are getting a light, ‘fast read’ kind of book when you first pick this one up, especially at the start, but once you get into it, the themes that emerge can be thought provoking. Loss is the main premise and the author gives it to us in many angles, of a child, a parent, a marriage. Even if you think this description sounds depressing, I feel Monica Wood has handled all of this with a gentle hand and humour. This book was recommended to me and I’m definitely going to recommend it to others. (Submitted by Renee)

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The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami

hero-walkAnita Rau Badami does an excellent job depicting the modern day life in India (I literally felt like a tourist submerged into the environment except there was also a good story and I didn’t have to physically travel anywhere). It focuses on one family, but a lot is tied into that one family’s journey: neighbours, traditions,  and daily routines.  Another interesting twist is the switching back and forth between Canada and India – this contrast is often very vivid (actually, just like everything in Badami’s book). You will feel the heat and smell the dust, or hear the rain gushing during the monsoon period. Fans of descriptive language will be thrilled with this novel. The drawback, to some people, it may seem longer than necessary at some parts of the book – but, tastes are just a matter of opinion.

One of the main characters in the novel is a 7 year-old girl, Nandana, who loses her parents in a car accident and has to go to India to live with her estranged grandparents. Nandana’s grandparents are internally suffocating from emotions of: grief, regret, uncertainty, failure, and frustration as they try their best to build a new life for their grandchild and fix up their own ones along the way. (Submitted by Mariya)

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Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Many of us in our `middle ages` are dealing with aging parents in various stages of decline.  Roz Chast, the writer and New Yorker cartoonist, uses the graphic novel format to document her journey through this challenging time in her memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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From first noticing that things seem to be `falling apart`, to realizing that she must take control of the uncontrollable, and then on through moving her parents into care, and experiencing their passing, Chast weaves her story with humour, grace, and brutal honesty.

The most important messages I took from this endearing memoir are that:

  • we are not alone,
  • having a sense of humour is a survival skill, and,
  • in the midst of complicated family relationships and challenging situations there is still, always, love.

(Submitted by KS).

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Missing Nimâmâ by Melanie Florence

Image result for Missing NimâmâMissing Nimâmâ by Melanie Florence, winner of the 2016 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, is a lovely picture book for anyone’s collection. However, it is especially relevant for teachers looking for First Nations materials for the new BC Ministry of Education requirements, or for anyone who has read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and wants to dig deeper into the stories of Canada’s First Nations. It introduces the topic of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in a format that is accessible to young children.

The story of a young girl growing up is told in the voices of the girl and her missing mother. The lovely, wistful illustrations reflect the emotions of the daughter who is missing her mother, and the mother who can no longer raise her daughter.  The sweet and touching relationship between the girl and the grandmother who raises her prevents the story from becoming too overwhelmingly sad. An interesting addition to the text is a Cree glossary of words which are both included in the text and hidden in the illustrations. More information and statistics on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada are included at the end of the book for those who want to go a bit deeper. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about Canada’s relationship to its indigenous people. (Submitted by Rebecca).

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Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Reading books set in Montreal always fill me with nostalgia, doubly so for the deep sensory memories evoked by the fact the sisters of this novel grow up over their father’s bagel shop in Mile End. Beena and Sadhana are closely linked together by tragedy as well as family bonds. In the wake of her sister’s untimely death, Beena must grapple with their past. Thoroughly engaging, and not just because of the thought of bagels. A Canada Reads 2016 pick. (Submitted by Meghan W).

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